OnLive Game System Review

Instant Play Streaming Video Gaming

The OnLive folks provided me with their new Onlive Game System to evaluate. The OnLive Game System (they call it a MicroConsole) sells for $99 and comes with a MicroConsole, a wireless controller and the necessary cables. OnLive is a cloud-based streaming gaming service and has been around since mid-2010. To put it simply, the OnLive service basically streams video very similar to Netflix. It just happens that the video is from a game instead of a movie. The heavy lifting for the service is handled by the OnLive infrastructure.

Initially, the gaming service was accessible only from a PC or Mac running the OnLive software. The OnLive Game System was an addition this year, providing an option designed for living room gaming similar to traditional consoles. OnLive has also released an app for the iPad, giving them yet another option to access their gaming service. They are also working on an app for the Android tablet market. This is a really interesting business model. One services, lots of front ends to run it. I am sure mobile is right around the corner.

Hardware (Rating 4.5)

The wireless controller feels really solid in your hand and is very comfortable. I would say the controller is just a little bigger than the Xbox 360 controller. One unique feature of the OnLive wireless controller is the series of media controls which allows you to control viewing live game play. The OnLive wireless controller features proprietary technology to minimize input lag and can be recharged using the USB cable which is included.

Pairing the wireless controller was simple as you connect it using the provided USB cable for a few seconds. You can then disconnect it at which time the wireless connection will be all set. The console allows for up to 4 wireless controllers. All and all, the OnLive wireless Controller is a really nice piece of gaming hardware.

The MicroConsole is about the size of a deck of Uno cards so it won't take up much space in your living room. Like the wireless controller, the MicroConsole is really solid. It has a couple of USB ports which can be used for pairing wireless controllers. You can also connect 2 wired controllers to the console. Interestingly, the USB ports accepted a PC USB keyboard and mouse as well as an Xbox 360 controller. Some of the current games seem to respond well to using a regular keyboard and mouse.

The MicroConsole has an HDMI out, optical out, audio out, A/V out and a power plug. Make sure you turn the unit off as it does get a bit on the hot side.

Installation and Setup (Rating - 4.5)

I was really pleased with the installation and setup of the Onlive Game System. I don't typically talk about packaging but the OnLive Gaming System itself was packaged really nice. Your initial impression is that you are getting a very high quality product.

As with any typical developer, I left the manual in the box and starting setting up the system "the right way". After I connected the HDMI cable to my LCD TV, an Ethernet cable to my router and the power cord, I fired up the system. The startup process launched automatically. I accepted a few defaults, signed in using the account I set up previously and agreed to the license terms. The Onlive Game System immediately downloaded a few updates and the main page was up and running. The entire setup process took only a few minutes. This was a completely pleasant process. I wish all software installed so easily. Note to developers...this is the way to install software.

Running OnLive on your PC or Mac requires a quick download and only takes a few minutes to setup. The PC/Mac setup was equally simple. Once you install the software, run the OnLive Launcher and sign in with your username and password. OnLive warns you if you are connected over Wi-Fi in case you want to use a wired connection. With OnLive, the faster the connection, the better.

User Interface (Rating - 3.5)

Whether you access the OnLive service using the MicroConsole or your PC or Mac, the user experience is the same. The start screen looks identical a PC, Mac, iPad or the new MicroConsole. The start screen shows large buttons to manage your profile, check out the marketplace (games), manage your brag clips and talk to your OnLive friends.

Surrounding the main menu buttons are a series of mini-screens showing live game play. can check out games that are being played live on the OnLive system from all over the world. This works really well and it's one of my favorite features. Click on the Arena menu button and check out a few live games. Of course, you can give a thumbs up or down to the game, check out player's profiles and add the players as friends. We are in a Web 2.0 world, after all.

Library of Games (Rating - 2.0)

The Marketplace is where you search for games. Most games have trials, 3 and 5 day passes and full purchases. You can see ratings from the OnLive community as well. New releases for popular titles can cost up to $50 for a Full PlayPass which allows you to play the game as long as you want. In addition to being able to play individual titles, OnLive also has a monthly plan called the PlayPack Plan. This offers unlimited play for a library of games for $9.99 per month. Unfortunately, you have no control of the library for the PlayPack. Perhaps in the future, OnLive can offer different bundles for this option. You could then choose a library to meet your likes and dislikes.

As of 2/13/2011, there were 42 titles according to OnLive's featured games listing. This is an area that will get better over time as they haven't even been live for a year. I did a little analysis on the current game catalog to give you an idea of the type of games currently available. Right off the bat, every title has a free trial available.

  • Games By Genres
    • Action: 6
    • Action, Adventure: 5
    • Sports: 4
    • Simulation: 3
    • Family, Puzzle: 3
    • Adventure, Family: 2
    • Adventure, Indie: 2
    • Shooter: 2
    • Platform, Puzzle: 1
    • Strategy: 1
    • Racing: 1
    • Action, Strategy: 1
    • Indie, Sports: 1
    • Family, Indie: 1
    • Puzzle: 1
    • RPG, Shooter: 1
    • Action, Sports: 1
    • Action, Indie: 1
    • Action, Horror: 1
    • Action, RPG: 1
    • Indie: 1
    • Action, Shooter: 1
    • Indie, Puzzle: 1
  • Games By ESRB
    • M: Mature 17+: 16
    • E: Everyone: 10
    • E10+: Everyone 10+: 8
    • T: Teen: 7
    • RP: Rating Pending: 1
  • Games By Mode
    • Single Player: 27
    • Single Player, Multiplayer: 15
  • Games By 3 Day PlayPass
    • $2.99: 1
    • $3.99: 2
    • $4.99: 5
    • $5.99: 18
    • NA: 16
  • Games By 5 Day PlayPass
    • $6.99: 7
    • $8.99: 17
    • NA: 18
  • Games By Cost of Full PlayPass
    • $4.99: 1
    • $8.99: 1
    • $9.99: 8
    • $13.99: 1
    • $14.99: 3
    • $19.99: 15
    • $29.99: 10
    • $39.99: 2
    • $49.99: 1

To sum up the current library of games available, it looks like the most genres are action and sports and two-thirds of the games are single player. About 40% of the games do not offer 3 and/or 5-day passes. In terms of price, the most common Full PlayPass will set you back $19.99 and only 1 game is $49.99. It is clear that OnLive is going after the big titles. Perhaps, they could supplement with family friendly games designed for a young audience. Maybe they could offer a monthly unlimited PlayPack designed for very young children. This option might be worth parents investing in. But there needs to be the titles geared for that audience. If you look back on newly released game console systems, there is always a delay in ramping up to lots of titles. Many consoles started out with only a dozen titles.

Review of Game Play

Game Play (Rating - 3.0)


My overall experience with game play was decent. Your connection speed plays into the game play in a big way. There was a bit of latency here and there but it wasn't overwhelming for me. For titles that move relatively quick like Virtua Tennis 2009 from Sega, you can see a little pixelation. At times, a button press was delayed by a split secont, however, I found that the more I played, it was pretty easy to adapt to the delay.

My son, on the other hand, is a hard core gamer. He pointed out that even a slight delay when playing a shooter game can make the game frustrating. He played the OnLive Game System and felt that most serious gamers would continue using traditional consoles or high end gaming PCs.

It's important to understand the complexity of trying to match a traditional console or high end gaming PC experience with a cloud based model. If you are the kind of person where the screen graphics must be perfect and a blip on the screen is not acceptable, you might want to stick with your Xbox 360 or Alienware Gaming PC. Cloud based gaming is getting there but it's not quite there yet. But it does have its place in the gaming world.



I am really encouraged by the OnLive service. I really like the Arena. As a parent who often spends $60 for a game, being able to "rent" a game is a nice feature. I do think there is room for the catalog to grow. Someday, a cloud based offering will be common for a new release. Right now, this is not the case. Additionally, I think there are license issues that need to be worked out but this will get done. I honestly believe OnLive will be one of the major players in the cloud based gaming space. The MicroConsole is a really great addition to a up and coming new gaming service.

OnLive Game System Rating Summary

  • Hardware: 4.5
  • Installation and Setup: 4.5
  • User Interface: 3.5
  • Library of Games: 2.0
  • Game Play: 3.0
  • Overall Rating: 3.5